What is Chronic Pain Syndrome?


Pain is your body’s natural response to a disease or injury and is a sign that something is off. You normally stop hurting when your body heals. However, pain often lasts long after the underlying reason is gone. Pain that lasts for three to six months or longer is referred to as chronic pain. It can be harmful to your physical and mental well-being to experience pain daily.

A disorder known as chronic pain syndrome (CPS) will eventually affect about 25% of persons who experience chronic pain. At that point, people experience symptoms like despair and anxiety that interfere with their day-to-day activities and go beyond simple discomfort. Although treating CPS can be challenging, it’s not impossible. A combination of therapies, including physical therapy, counselling, and relaxation training, can help you manage your pain and its accompanying symptoms.

How Does Chronic Pain Syndrome Occur?

Physicians are unsure of the precise cause of CPS. Usually, it begins with an injury or uncomfortable condition like:

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Certain individuals with CPS may require increasing dosages of medication to control their pain, perhaps leading to drug dependence.

Risk factors 

Studies indicate that certain individuals tend to develop chronic pain syndrome more than others. They are as follows:

  • People who suffer from painful, long-term illnesses like arthritis.
  • Those experiencing depression: Although the precise cause of this is unknown, experts believe that sadness alters how the brain receives and processes signals from the neurological system.
  • Obese individuals: 50% of people seeking therapy for obesity report having mild to severe discomfort, according to studies. Specialists are unsure of the exact cause of this, whether it is the strain that excess weight places on the body or the complex relationships between obesity and the body’s hormones and metabolism.
  • Individual women: Pain sensitivity is often higher in women. It is hypothesized by researchers that this could be caused by hormones or variations in the density of nerve fibres in males and females.
  • Individuals over the age of 65. You become more vulnerable to a wide range of illnesses that might cause chronic pain as you become older.

Coping with Chronic Pain Syndrome

Taking care of chronic pain can be challenging when you’re not feeling well. Pain might worsen when one is under emotional stress. Working can be challenging, so you could think about applying for disability benefits. But make sure you thoroughly investigate this. Before receiving benefits, you must fulfil several very precise standards set forth by the Social Security Administration.

The American Psychological Association offers the following advice for managing chronic pain in the interim:

  • Pay attention to the good things in your life.
  • Show commitment. Don’t cut yourself off from your loved ones, friends, or the things you still like doing.
  • Take part in groups for support. You can be referred to one by your physician or the hospital in your area.
  • Seek out medical and psychological assistance. And never forget to look elsewhere if you feel that your doctors are minimizing the discomfort you are experiencing. There are kind medical professionals out there. Seek advice from friends and make referrals to local hospitals, health organizations that specialize in a certain illness, and support groups.

Psychological Factors in Chronic Pain Syndrome

Chronic pain syndrome and disorders like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently interact. These mental health conditions not only increase the intensity of pain but also impair coping strategies and daily functioning.

Psychological dysregulation can occur along a continuum as a result of psychological trauma from exposure to excessive stress levels that differ from what is thought to be normal human experience. The typical result of this kind of exposure to intolerable conditions is the syndrome of posttraumatic stress disorder, which includes nightmares, emotional tightness, and flashbacks.

Complex posttraumatic stress disorder is a more severe form of trauma presentation that is marked by altered self-capacities, mood instability, overdeveloped avoidance response, somatoform discomfort, and posttraumatic stress. Such exposure carries a risk of developing severe chronic pain conditions and cortical sensitivity.

The so-called stress diathesis model for pain and psychological dysfunction suggests that premorbid personality predispositions (vulnerability) in a situational setting of tissue damage and impairment (stress) may be the cause of chronic pain problems. 

The cycle of chronic pain can be sustained by maladaptive cognitive processes such as fear avoidance (avoidance of tasks owing to dread of pain), rumination (continuous thinking on pain sensations), and catastrophizing (exaggerating the severity of pain).

The goal of CBT Is to change unhelpful beliefs and actions related to persistent pain. Through the use of relaxation techniques, coping strategies, and progressive exposure to feared activities, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) assists people in taking back control of their pain.

Present-moment awareness and the nonjudgmental acceptance of painful experiences are fostered by mindfulness activities. Both mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) have demonstrated the potential to lower pain levels and enhance general well-being.

References +
  • Jacobs, M. S. (2013). Psychological factors influencing chronic pain and the impact of litigation. Current Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports, 1(2), 135–141.
  • Watson, S. (2017, May 17). What is chronic pain syndrome? WebMD.
  • Christiano, D. (2018, December 1). What is chronic pain syndrome? Healthline.
  • What to know about chronic pain syndrome. (2023, November 22).
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